The History of Indo-Chinese Cuisine Is as Rich as Its Flavors

Karishma Pradhan on the roots of Indo-Chinese cuisine, a fusion that embraces cooking traditions from both cultures yet stands distinct in its own right.

The History of Indo-Chinese Cuisine Is as Rich as Its Flavors

Karishma Pradhan on the roots of Indo-Chinese cuisine, a fusion that embraces cooking traditions from both cultures yet stands distinct in its own right.

Indo-Chinese food is a popular fusion of two cultures pioneered by Chinese immigrants from generations past.

by Karishma Pradhan

I can still recall the first time I tried Indo-Chinese food while visiting Mumbai with my family over a decade ago. We often traveled to India every few years to visit our relatives in Maharashtra, but on this particular vacation, my parents planned a special day trip to explore the city. Just after touring the Gateway of India, we sat down at a Chinese restaurant and devoured a wide offering of dishes. First, we received an appetizer of gobi Manchurian, deep-fried cauliflower coated in a glossy chili tomato garlic sauce. Then the entrees arrived—chili chicken (boneless chicken swimming in a spicy soy gravy) served with rice and Hakka noodles (wok-fried noodles with vegetables like carrots, peppers, and onions glazed in a soy-vinegar sauce).

A mix of confusion, surprise, and delight set over me as I examined each dish. I immediately recognized familiar notes—soy sauce, vinegar, and velvety sauces thickened with cornstarch—from Chinese restaurants back home in the United States. But there was also a characteristic Indian flavor, a heavy-handed presence of fiery Kashmiri chilies and warming spices. This amalgam of ingredients produced a uniquely complex flavor profile, unlike anything I had eaten before. To many, the food was neither Indian nor Chinese, but a distinctive cuisine in its own right. (1)

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